Several contenders lost their chance to acquire Haren once the Nats crept back into playoff contention in late-August.
A handful of teams that failed to make impact moves at the July 31 trade deadline were able to make up for it with waiver-wire deals in August.
The Texas Rangers landed Alex Rios, while the Baltimore Orioles got Michael Morse and the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired three bats—John Buck, Marlon Byrd and Justin Morneau. The St. Louis Cardinals finally traded for a veteran reliever in John Axford after standing pat in July.
Now that August has passed, however, the chance to add another player that is eligible for a playoff roster is gone. Here are four contending teams that will regret not adding one final piece to the puzzle for the stretch run.
Jason Heyward's jaw injury on August 21 isn't likely to have a major impact on the remainder of the regular season. The Braves had all but locked up a playoff spot and there was no immediate need to replace the 24-year-old (pictured), who was having a huge month (23-for-66, four HR, six 2B).
However, if Heyward is not ready by the start of the playoffs, they'll be going with an outfield led by the streaky Justin Upton. Brother B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer would be right there alongside him—the former having struggled for most of the season (.592 OPS), the latter having cooled down (13 for his last 64) after a terrific start to the year.
Even if Heyward was healthy, it wouldn't have been a huge surprise had the team acquired some outfield help.
However, knowing that Heyward is a question mark, the Braves should have made acquiring an outfielder who would be playoff-eligible a priority before the end of August.
Of course, they have the best record in baseball, so pulling off a trade for a starting outfielder was probably a long shot. Nevertheless, even going after Jason Kubel—who was traded to the Cleveland Indians after being designated for assignment by the Arizona Diamondbacks—would have put them in a better position heading into October.
Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak was happy to stick with his current group of starters despite losing Jake Westbrook to a back injury and a poor August from Lance Lynn (5.84 ERA) and Adam Wainwright (4.78 ERA). They also expect inexperienced pitchers in Shelby Miller (pictured) and Joe Kelly are expected to play key roles down the stretch.
While Dan Haren's price likely rose with each start he made in August to help the Nats get back into a playoff spot, it would seem that he could have been had for a reasonable price when he first cleared waivers last month. The Nats traded David DeJesus and Kurt Suzuki on August 23. Haren surely had to be available then.
In a three-way battle for the NL Central title, there's no question it would be an easier fight with the veteran Haren, who had a 2.53 ERA over a span of 57 innings before getting roughed up in his last start.
Closer Koji Uehara might be the toughest reliever to face in the game right now, while Junichi Tazawa has had a solid season in a setup role. However, aside from those two, the Sox have a bevy of lefty relievers and only a few inexperienced pitchers—Rubby De La Rosa and Brandon Workman—from the right side.
While they could move Ryan Dempster to the 'pen once Clay Buchholz returns from the disabled list, the 36-year-old hasn't pitched as a reliever since 2007 and there's no guarantee the transition would be smooth. It would appear that a couple of veteran right-handers, Kevin Gregg of the Chicago Cubs and Matt Lindstrom (pictured) of the White Sox, would have made a lot of sense. Neither pitcher would have likely cost much.
Both men are having solid seasons, especially Gregg, who has a 3.17 ERA and 28 saves. He's much better against left-handed hitters, though, while Lindstrom dominates right-handed hitters (.583 OPS). Either pitcher would have been a nice alternative to Tazawa in the late innings while giving the team a veteran complement to lefties Matt Thornton, Craig Breslow and Franklin Morales.
If the Yankees miss the playoffs, it will be understandable considering how many key players have gone down to injury. However, with a month to go in the season, they're still only a few games out of a wild-card spot.
The problem is that CC Sabathia is no longer pitching like an ace, which makes it extremely difficult for this team to continue making up ground.
Even if Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte are pitching great, Sabathia's decline and Phil Hughes' continued struggles leave the Yanks in a tough spot in two out of every five games.
As was the case with St. Louis, not pursuing Haren sometime between the day he cleared waivers on August 14 and when they traded away DeJesus and Suzuki on August 23 was a mistake. That would have been the time to make a move.
Instead, they will struggle to get any closer to the wild-card spot unless Sabathia can turn things around quickly. The 33-year-old has a 7.38 ERA over his last eight starts.